• Josh Addo-Carr (left), James Roberts (middle) and Latrell Mitchell (right). (AAP)
Former rugby league star and Over the Black Dot panelist Owen Craigie says Melbourne Storm winger Josh Addo-Carr has been the best Aboriginal player in the NRL this season, but there are a few others set to light up the finals series.
By
Owen Craigie

6 Sep 2017 - 3:08 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2017 - 3:18 PM

In the NRL this season, you can’t beat a Josh Addo-Carr. He’s had the best year I’ve seen since probably Steve Renouf.

He’s had a fantastic year and if you talk about Aboriginal players in the game and the ones that stand out, well, what better standout than Josh Addo-Carr?

He’s gone to a different level this season after heading to Melbourne and there are talks of him being a bolter for the Kangaroos squad.

Having moved to that new environment, Addo-Carr deserves every success he gets, because he’s left Sydney where he grew up.

Wests Tigers didn’t want him, he went down to Melbourne, threw himself in the deep end, living in a different state, away from his family, a whole new group and whole new culture.

But at the most professional rugby league club in the world and the kid has a dig and now he’s reaping all the rewards. Everything he gets, he deserves.

He does have massive speed though and you can’t buy that – you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

What makes his so impressive is his speed. But he’s more than pace – he’s got good anticipation of the game, he can read the game. He’s a great support player, he’s busting tackles from scooting runs, he’s scoring 100 metre tries. He’s more than just a rugby league player, he’s got speed to burn.

He does have massive speed though and you can’t buy that – you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

It’s not easy for young Aboriginal athletes to leave their communities but his story should inspire other people and say: ‘You know what, for the next 10 years of your life it’s an opportunity to go and earn some great money. Go and bite the bullet’. Your community’s not going anywhere - go and increase your health and your lifestyle and your family’s life.

Do it. Because you can always come home afterwards.

I think James Roberts is another player who’s had a huge year. Roberts from the Broncos has had a great year. And in saying that, the best two Aboriginal players in the comp that I think could be the best two teams facing off in the GF, the Storm and Broncos.

For Roberts, this year has been about two words: Wayne Bennett. The most prolific coach in the game’s history. He’s won more premierships than anyone else and if there’s any team to take on Melbourne this year it’s the Broncs.

Roberts is so damaging because of speed, that speed factor again. It’s that ability to read the game, it’s the natural instinct.

With some of the best Aboriginal players of the past 15 years not playing in this season’s finals, it’s a new group of players standing up.

It is aggression and he’s a strong ball runner so he’s powerful as well as fast.

He’s got that strong anticipation, and that may come back from the old days when our people used to hunt and gather. We’ve got that anticipation of the ball bouncing and the chip and chase and to burn the extra speed. It’s not a common thing, it’s often only Aboriginal players who can do that.

With some of the best Aboriginal players of the past 15 years not playing in this season’s finals, it’s a new group of players standing up.

I think Tyrone Peachey from Penrith Panthers will be one, Brian Kelly from Manly and I think Latrell Mitchell – everyone keep your eyes on young Latrell Mitchell from the Roosters. He’s going to turn it on.

There’s always opportunity for these guys, that’s what’s so great about the game.

There’s always going to be opportunity. There’s probably kids out there that no one’s heard about yet, that’ll come out next year and turn the rugby league world upside down, from playing five games. That’s the beauty of this game.

And that’s why you take your hat off to people like Billy Slater and Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk, because they’ve been at the top of their game for more than 10 or 15 years.

I see it as a Storm-Broncos final in the NRL this year, because the Broncos defence is good, the Storm’s attack’s good as well as their defence.

I don’t think we’re going to see a real surprise in the finals at the moment, because at the end of the day I think Melbourne’s going to be hard to beat.

Watching them play, I think that it’s going to be those two teams, not only because the way they play, but just their structures, the coaches they’ve got and just the way they win games. The broncos win games just by scoring 18 points and then keeping the other teams scoreless. Wayne’s always won competitions purely on defence, not on attacks.

I don’t think we’re going to see a real surprise in the finals at the moment, because at the end of the day I think Melbourne’s going to be hard to beat.

Think about this: When you’re playing in a team that’s just won the minor premiership and you’re a part of a team that’s played in five grand finals in the past 11 years. And then you look at your fullback and your halfback and your hooker, you’re playing with Immortals, you’re playing Slater, Smith and Cronk.

On top of all that, your captain and your hooker controls the ship with the best kicking game and game around the ruck going.

He’s the most capped Origin player, the most capped Australian player, he’s got the most points in Origin – those boys don’t plan on losing. It’s more than just a game on that day for these blokes because they want to send out the main man with winning a comp.

They’re the little things that other teams don’t have, that presence or feel. The Broncos had it with Darren Lockyer and now the Storm have it Cameron Smith.

To hear more from Owen Craigie and for all of your rugby league news, tune in to Over the Black Dot on NITV at 9.30pm every Wednesday.